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By Johana Leroy

« How could I be involved in Volunteering? That is the question that puts me seeking for replies.

1. Which youth organisations can I contact ?

European Confederention of Youth Clubs (ECYC), European Youth of Volunteers Alliance(EYV), the European Volunteer Centre(CEV), Youth in Action (YIA), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), International Volonteering Service (SVI or IVS), European Volonteering Service (SVE or EVS).

2. What are they doing ?

ECYC

Aims to empower young people through open youth work and non-formal learning in order to promote democratic and civil society and to encourage young people to be actively involved in their communities.

For more info, such as a Resource Bank, go to the ECYC website :www.ecyc.org

EYV

The Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organisations is an International Non-Governmental Youth Organisation that represents national organisations which promote intercultural education, understanding and peace through voluntary service.

The Alliance, founded in 1982, is presently made up of full, associate and candidate members in Armenia, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Russian Federation, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, South Korea, Spain (Spain and Catalunya), Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Each member organisation runs an annual programme of International Volunteer Projects in their own country and exchanges volunteers with each other to create an international group of volunteer workers on each project.

For info : http://www.alliance-network.eu/

CEV

Europe Union Center for Volunteering is the European network of  88 national, regional and local volunteer centres and volunteer support agencies across Europe, that work together  to support and promote voluntary activity.

Through this network, they reach out to over 17,000 volunteer organisations, associations and other voluntary and community groups. CEV channels the collective priorities and concerns of its member organisations to the institutions of the European Union.

It also acts as a central forum for the exchange of policy, practice and information on volunteering.

You want to volunteer, check their website :http://www.cev.be/28-you_want_to_volunteer-EN.html

YIA

Youth In Action is a partnership between youth, adults, and community where young people are at the forefront of creating positive social change.

YIA based on the belief that youth have the right to be involved in decision-making and social change projects that affect their own community.YIA goes beyond the traditional after-school program model, which aims to “keep kids safe” by involving them in activities.

In addition to having a safe and welcoming place to go after school, youth spend their time engaging in activities that promote critical thinking, leadership, and community action.

Ckeck out their website : http://www.youthinactionri.org/programs

For any question, please contact them by email : info@youthinactionri.org

ERDF : to finance your projects

ERDF resources are mainly used to cofinance:

  • productive investment leading to the creation or maintenance of jobs;
  • infrastructure;
  • local development initiatives and the business activities of small and medium-sized enterprises.

In practice, all development areas are covered: transport, communication technologies, energy, the environment, research and innovation, social infrastructure, training, urban redevelopment and the conversion of industrial sites, rural development, the fishing industry, tourism and culture.

Whether you are an ordinary citizen, the director of a company, a member of a local development association or a local official, perhaps you have a project which might benefit from ERDF support? If so, you may wish to consult the summaries of the regional programmes currently being implemented.

Website : http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/funds/prord/prord_en.htm

SVI

Is a Belgian pluralistic youth organization run by and for young people, by and for volunteers. Apolitical, with no religious affiliation, the SVI is open to all and everyone, without discrimination of nationality, race, philosophy, financial resources, education or sexual orientation.

The association works mainly in the field of international volunteerism, but also in the areas of solidarity tourism and intercultural exchanges between young Europeans and the rest of the world.

Their actions are to : promote a more just society in peace and solidarity, break cultural misunderstandings between people and nations, inform and act on environmental issues, promote public education and non-formal education, contribute into reducing poverty and strengthening the Rights of Men and Women, educate and involve the youth in projects of international solidarity and development cooperation, encourage the youth to participate actively in the life of the society in which they are a part, support and encourage exchanges between voluntary organizations and the youth in developing countries, promote European and international citizenship.

Ckeck out their website : http://www.servicevolontaire.org/ or to find internship, vacancy

http://www.servicevolontaire.org/index.phpmenu_selected=60&sub_menu_selected=291&language=US

EVS or SVE

Are you between 18 and 30 and willing to spend from two up to 12 months abroad as an EVS volunteer? The European Voluntary Service provides young Europeans with the unique chance to express their personal commitment through unpaid and full-time voluntary activities in a foreign country within or outside the EU. In this way, it seeks to develop solidarity, mutual understanding and tolerance among young people, thus contributing to reinforcing social cohesion in the European Union and to promoting young people’s active citizenship.

All infos for volunteering : http://ec.europa.eu/youth/youth-in-action-programme/european-voluntary-service_en.htm

If you are part of a youth organization and have ever filed an application for a grant of the European Youth in Action program, you may have sighed in despair. Yes, the EU will give you funding, but only if there is a substantial part of co-funding from other donors involved.

In a move to recognize volunteering better and to give youth organizations better chances of obtaining funding, the European Confederation of Youth Clubs (ECYC) is pushing forward a plan to turn volunteer time into hard economic figures. How much would an hour of volunteer work be worth, if it had to be paid as in the private sector? That is the start point for a quantification of volunteer time.

“The Commission already recognized the possibility of putting volunteer time down as a sort of funding, for example in the European Regional Development Fund,” says ECYC Secretary General Carmen Paun. “We want to see this integrated into ‘Youth in Action’ as well, and we are waiting what the Commission will say in its Communication on Volunteering that is set to be published on 20 September.”

The problem, Paun says, is in the practical implementation of these ideas. Should a volunteer in Sweden, where life is very expensive, be registered with more financial contributions than a volunteer in Latvia for the same amount of work, or should they be equal? And how would it be made sure that volunteer time is correctly noted down and accounted for? “Those are the issues that we are still debating with the European Commission, national youth councils and international youth organizations,” says Carmen Paun. “Our first step is to make the idea of putting down volunteer time as co-funding popular with international youth organizations and national youth councils. With their support in our back, we can then go to the Commission and fight for the correct implementation in the Youth in Action programme.

Counting volunteer time is also the goal of EYV. On their website, you can register your volunteer time for this year. At the end of the year, EYV hopes to have reached a total of 1,000,000 hours of registered volunteer time.

Volunteering through sport

By Frédéric Gevenois

Sport is often overlooked as a manner to encourage volunteering in big cities while it is very popular in little villages. Sport is by far the biggest sector in volunteering in Europe, and a lot of sports organizations rely on volunteers. Those organizations fight for the recognition of the skills and competences of the volunteers, and also ensure that the have good financial support.

There are as many as 35 million Europeans currently giving their time voluntarily to running sporting activities. About 60% of Europeans play sports, 60 million are members of sport clubs and 90% of these clubs rely on volunteers. We can see that this is a big sector that should be developed to promote volunteering. Fortunately, the European Union has already repeatedly recognized the importance of sport and its link with volunteering.

We must not forget the fact that sport is also a good approach to facilitate integration in societies, a way to make kids from different backgrounds play together and enjoy themselves. Volunteering in sport reinforces active citizenship and provides many occasions for informal education, which needs to be recognized. It can also help young people in getting involved in the society and pulling them away from delinquency. Unfortunately, the main obstacle to volunteering is that young people are often not even aware that volunteering associations exist or they don’t have any clue of what they are doing.

With sport being the biggest sector of volunteering in Europe, Associations like ENGSO (European Non-Governmental Sports Organisation) want to stress the importance of improving the status of volunteers and sports organizations in Europe and make sport an attractive option for all.

Give them the opportunity to change the world/Picture Source Flickr CC BY Matt from London

"Let them see the world and discover new cultures" - Wang Zheng (24), China/Picture source Flickr CC BY

"Encourage them to make new friends" - Jenske (23), Belgium /Picture source Flickr CC BY-NC-ND

"Give them a voice in the world" - George (30), Georgia CC BY-NC-ND

 By Inne De Pooter

"Let them enjoy the school of life" – Andras (37), Hungary/Picture source Flickr CC BY-NC-ND scot2342

"Look for interesting themes they are interested in" – Ruth (31), Spain/Picture source Flickr CC BY-NC-SA tom Cochrane

"Share your magnificent experiences with them" – Els (21), Belgium/Picture source Flickr CC BY-NC-ND acodring

"Show them the satisfaction of helping people" - Nathalie Blouard (25), Belgium/Source Flickr CC BY-NC-ND

"Organise a party for them" – Ilse (24), Belgium/Flickr CC BY-NC-SA David Domingo

By Iulia Puiu

As I was curiously walking along the tents the EYV 2011 Alliance, Project Officer Cerline Barlet and volunteers of the organization spontaneously registered me on www.eyv2011.eu with my hours of volunteering.

The aim of EYV Alliance is to collect 1 milion hours of Gift Time from volunteers during 2011. And it is only September. Whether you volunteered 5, 10, 20 hours per day or per week, you are welcome to register online by yourselves. A 200.000 hours of volunteering represent the actual amount of time that people wanted to offer in volunteering.

Tell your friends, fill in the form that you can find on EYV because it’s fun and it changes the facts of how people view the act of volunteering.

The platform Young Migrants organised a workshop on Saturday bringing together volunteers from migrant’s organisations from all over Europe. Together, they discussed the benefits and challenges of volunteer work for migrants.

All of the participants stressed that volunteering does enhance the chances for integration. First, on a personal level. They emphasised that migrants can start to be who they are by volunteering. Volunteering can give migrants the self-confidence that migrants need to fight racism actively. It gives them the courage needed to challenge prejudices of the local population.

The participants quoted many examples of the successes of migrant’s voluntary work. The Swiss Youth Council’s representative to the United Nations General Assembly this year was of migrant background, for instance. More and more migrant organisations are joining the Council as a result of its advocacy towards migrant integration, making the it a better mirror of the real society in Switzerland. In Ireland, volunteering activities from migrant organisations reached that Irish with migrant background were included in the traditional parties’ lists during the last elections – before, they had to run as independents. Together, the Irish Youth Council has set up a local radio station that channels the voices of young migrants.

However, many challenges remain. In many European Countries – for instance Portugal or Ireland – young people of immigrant background do not even have the right to vote in local elections. In many places, young migrant’s organisations are not recognised by government agencies and do not receive any kind of support, in spite of the important work they do. In Austria, migrant youth often do not mix with local young people, because local families prefer to send their children to private schools. In Germany, thousands of children from Roma families are menaced of deportation to Kosovo, a country they have left 15 years ago and of which they do not speak any local language. A participant from Georgia spoke about the mounting tensions in Georgian society against the liberal immigration policy. For him, this is because the routes for illegal migration and human trafficking are shifting further north from the Greek-Turkish border, with dramatic consequences (many parts of the Georgian and Turkish borders still have landmines). The dramas happening at the border create a further attitude against immigration and migrants within Georgia.

However, the workshop ended on a positive note. Many participants felt that through advocacy from migrant youth organisations, attitudes towards young people from migrant background are shifting for the better. Volunteering can be a key for exchange and understanding. A Nigerian participant told about his experiences at Schiphol airport (in the Netherlands) and in Ukraine, where his mere presence as a volunteer was received with much surprise by the local population and the border police. Migrant organisations have three key tasks: integrating themselves, helping newcomers to integrate, and finally, help their own people at home. It should not be forgotten that the engagement of many migrants in Western countries is tremendously important for their families and friends in their countries of origin.

Hunt for your rights!

By Inne De Pooter

In the Volunteer Rights (V-Rights) stand we find James Higgins, an Irish man in his mid-twenties. He is surrounded by text balloons which represent the Charter on Volunteer Rights, split up in bits and pieces. “The document is about what volunteers can expect and what things are provided for them in order to their volunteering work. We realize five pages is very long, so we split them up and put them up to the wall. We picked out ten specific ones where visitors can play a little game with. One person takes a sheet of paper with a right written on it out of the hat and tries to illustrate it. The other one has to guess which one it is. If you’re right, you get a sweet.”

Hunt for your rights! - Winner Augustine Job

This amusing game has already led to some hilarious situations; Sven Retoré (30) from Belgium can testify of that. “Some Chinese people just played the game, but the boy who had to illustrate the right, didn’t get the meaning of the text. So he just started drawing something else because he didn’t want to say he couldn’t figure out what the paper said. I think that’s a cultural difference, because Western people would say it directly if they doesn’t get the meaning of something.”

But James tells me there’s also another competition going on, about five times a day. “It’s called ‘hunt for your rights’. We take one of the rights and hide it somewhere nearby. We take a picture of it and put it on Twitter. People can come for extra hints about the location at our stand. First one to bring it in, gets a laptop bag.”

Augustine Job (31) from Nigeria was one of the happy winners. “When I visited the V-rights tent, the nice laptop bag caught my eye, and they told me to look for the paper in order to get it. I found it hanging on one of the tents so now I won the bag! It was not difficult, because I think it was meant to be!”

Augustine is concerned about the rights of volunteers. “I think volunteer rights are very important. It’s also useful if you know what your duties are as a volunteer. The legalization is a must have, must do. It’s the first time I’m on a convention like this, but I hope to be able to participate some other conventions in the future.”

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